Biography of Isaac Felipe Azofeifa Bolaños (1909-1997)

Poet, essayist, politician and Costa Rican educator, born in Santo Domingo (in the province of Heredia) in 1909 and died in San José de Costa Rica on April 1, 1997. Author of a splendid poetic production which, on the basis of modernism, assimilates the best finds of postmodernism and the cutting edge to finish configuring a voice unique, singular and unmistakable, is regarded as one of the most important poets of the Costa Rican letters and, without a doubt, one of the most important figures of 20th-century American literature.


Came to the world in a peasant family of noble roots deep in Santo Domingo de Heredia. There, in contact with the field and rural life, became familiar with the contemplation of the simple things and reflection about them, habits that would then give a very personal stamp to their literary production.

His father was who instilled love for letters and the respect for a series of ideals and values which, like the yearning for peace and justice and the constant pursuit of beauty, would give meaning to the activities developed in their adult lives. Prolific and versatile, humanist extended compliance with these values to other activities unrelated to its literary, like teaching and policy vocation.

At twenty years of age, after having brilliantly followed his primary and secondary studies, he/she won a scholarship which enabled him to travel to Chile to expand their knowledge and their vital horizons there. Installed, therefore since 1929 in the capital of the Andean country, the young Isaac Felipe had the opportunity to come into contact with the main South American representatives of the avant-garde, which, was gradually moving away from the modernist aesthetic that was still valid at the Central American level that proceeded to go assimilating the best achievements of new innovative trends in art and thought.

It remained in Santiago of Chile until 1934, during a successful five years in which, besides aesthetically evolve towards these new currents breaking and offenders from Europe and the American South Cone, acquired valuable insight into new modern teaching techniques.

Back in Costa Rica, Isaac Felipe Azofeifa was perfectly integrated in the main artistic, academic and intellectual forums of his nation, where, with the passage of time, would Captain a profound renewal of poetry and, in general, of the literary and cultural ideas that were in vogue in the mid-20th century. He/She began to exert a powerful influence from the classrooms of the Liceo de Costa Rica, where he/she initiated a fruitful teaching career that later found continuity in a Chair in the University of Costa Rica. There it reached to deal with the high academic rank of director of general studies.

His intellectual height - which contrasted with its tiny stature - made him one of the major players in the public life of their nation. He/She was one of the founders of the Center for national studies - institution that printed an extraordinary impulse to twentieth-century Costa Rican culture-, and also belonged to the sovereignty group and, even, the Socialist Party of Costa Rica, in whose ranks became candidate for the presidential elections of the nation.

Master of many generations of Costa Ricans educators, figure was in the educational and cultural policy of his people, regular contributor to the major media in the country, cultured and entertaining lecturer and, in sum, knowledgeable and friendly sparring in debates and gatherings, Isaac Felipe Azofeifa left indelible memories and a legacy among American intellectuals of his time. Consecrated as one of the great Patriarchs of the national letters, it plunged to their fellow citizens in a deep concern when, in April 1996, already almost nonagenarian, suffered a stroke while it corrected that would be his last poetry collection. The elder poet has failed to recover from this serious medical condition, which ended up causing the death in April 1997, after having remained comatose for a year.


Isaac F. Azofeifa became known as a poet before reaching the twenty years of age, when even he/she had not abandoned his native Costa Rica to enjoy the aforementioned scholarship in Santiago of Chile. Published, then a juvenile composition entitled "The voice of the four homelands", which won first prize in the poetry contest organized by the Diaro de Costa Rica in 1928.

Despite this precocity, not he/she met his poems in a book until late 1958, when, already reaching the half-century of existence, he/she decided to respond to requests from those who begged him to collect material that had left scattered in journals and Rotary in poems. That was how Azofeifa gave printing truncates unit (1958), his directorial debut, in which selected a part of the poems of avant-garde experimentation that had been previously published in the cultural repertoire American. Clearly influenced by the current innovative he/she had met during his stay in Chile, these poems were already clearly Azofeifa developments from late modernism of his first lyrical texts to the richness and audacity of avant-garde experimentation.

After this happy outbreak - deeply rewarding not only for Azofeifa, but, in general, for the Costa Rica of mid-20th-century lyric - in the excesses of the avant-garde, the poet of Santo Domingo de Heredia evolved into a lyric that is much more focused on the human condition, the everyday problems of man and, in sum, the complexity of life in the modern worldwhere the aspirations and concerns of ever - love, death, freedom - collide violently with the crude sign of a time marked by hatred, war, oppression, injustice, etc.

All of these topics own humanized "poetry" are already well patent in the second collection of poems of Azofeifa, who left the hollanders in the early 1960s under the title of vigil at foot of death (1961). This collection of verses, which was awarded the first prize in El Salvador in the Cetroamericano contest of poetry, gave way to new poetic delivery that shaped a splendid literary career; among them, mention the titled song (1964) - awarded with the national prize of poetry-, stations (1967), days and territories (1969) - which also reported to Azofeifa the national prize of poetry, top of joy (1974) - distinguished, equally, with the award - and crossing of via (1982). In the mid-1990s he/she released an anthological exhibition of the whole of his lyric production, collected under the title of collected poetry (1995), and later worked in the orbit poetry book, that was the work that was corrected when the fatal spill struck him.

In addition to having obtained the concerned national prize of poetry on several occasions, Isaac Felipe Azofeifa was honored with many awards and distinctions, among which remember the poetry prize "Achilles J. Echeverria" - which won the award of Cultural journalism in four calls-the prize "Magón" (1980), "García Monge" (1972) and the prize "Omar Dengo", which was awarded by the National University of Costa Rica in recognition of his humanistic career. This Center for higher studies also honored him with the title of Professor Emeritus.

In his facet as an essayist, Azofeifa primarily addressed three aspects which had focused his attention throughout his life: literature, education, and policy. Author of an interesting literary review entitled literature: introduction to modern literature of the West (San José: Universidad Estatal a Distancia, 1984), published throughout his long career other trials as relevant as the current position of literary studies and our teaching of the Spanish language (San José: printing volume, 1934), the old high school. Democracy as a result of public education (San José: Ministry of culture, youth and sports, 1973), principles of education (San José: Universal Library, 1986), Costa Rican ideology (Heredia: National University, 1993), prose with ton and are (San José: Editorial Juricentro, 1993) and psychology for the secondary school (San José: Editorial Bejarano, s.f.e.).

Besides these factual volumes, Azofeifa, who regularly worked in many media of his country and abroad, wrote hundreds of articles focusing on the same subjects, published in newspapers, magazines or collective works. Way of example, despite reminding the graduates "Look for a single word," in current American poetry anthology (La Plata: Platense Editor, 1968-1969); "Pablo Neruda", in American Repertory (vol. 3D, no. 22, June, 1935), "our big men are civil heroes", Academy of geography and history of Costa Rica. Memory (San José: national printing press, 1949); "Mater", in American Repertory (vol. 3D, no. 9, March, 1935); "Towards an education for freedom and cooperation', in Chronicles (vol. 1, no. 2, July, 1948); and "Second teaching challenge", in Journal of the University of Costa Rica (No. 9, June, 1954).


BONILLA, Mª Rosa's. Stations, Isaac Felipe Azofeifa: essay on the persistence of the sonnet in the lyric of the West (San José: Universidad de Costa Rica, 1970).

CAÑAS ESCALANTE, Alberto. "Isaac Felipe Azofeifa", in the Republic (January 27, 1962), p. 2.

HURTADO, Gerardo. "The poetic sense of the man in Isaac Felipe Azofeifa", in La Prensa Libre (September 25, 1969).

MONGE, Carlos Francisco. "Contributions to the study of the poetry of Isaac Felipe Azofeifa. A talk and a selective biography", in Rev. Letters (Heredia [Costa Rica]), ns. 13-14 (1984), pp. 217-243.